I met Wanda when she was employed behind the counter at route 60 Bob’s Big Boy, Fried Chicken on the front seat, she’s sittin’ in my lap We’re wipin’ our fingers on a Texaco roadmap. I remember Wanda up on scrap metal hill with them big brown eyes that make your heart stand still
The heart and soul of the Edmonton Oilers is barely legal. We’ve seen what youth can do, good and bad. Outstanding plays added to questionable decisions and wins and losses (and injuries) in the balance. This season has been about growing pains, disappointment and finally chasing another lottery.
The big picture looks very good. The Oilers window of opportunity will eventually open, and when it does the club should be well positioned to make several runs to the Stanley. Sure, there are question marks about how long the window will stay open (what it comes down to is how many seasons of free agency will the club be able to buy from their very best young players) but we’re back at the beginning.
I think it’s important to remember a few things about this hockey club, to write these things down so we can remember them 10 years after:
- Taylor Hall (65gp, 22-20-42) would have skated right past Steven Stamkos’ rookie numbers if he’d been healthy. He might be just short of a "generational" talent but we don’t know that yet. The young man put swagger back in the Oilers resume for the first time in decades. I’ll remember his rookie season a long time.
- Jordan Eberle (56gp, 15-21-36) showed a wide range of skills and the kind of sixth sense around the net we saw decades ago in Steve Shutt. A savvy player who barely shaves, he’s a born leader and with a very large tool kit and a very big brain.
- Magnus Pääjärvi (67gp, 10-16-26) may be the one person in Edmonton with no idea how good he is. They interviewed his Dad last night during an intermission of the hockey game, and the Father appears to be a lighthearted fellow who is proud of his son. It may take a couple of seasons for the Son to grow up and into his role, but there’s a physical skill winger with brains in there and man he’s going to be something else.
- Linus Omark (38gp, 3-15-18) gets overlooked after the two front men and the mannish boy, but he’s a very good magician who may end up staying here a decade. It’s been a learning process, but he has wheels, sick skills and burns to be the best.
- Jeff Petry (22gp, 1-2-3) Over at the blog I’ve been rambling for years about the team acquiring blue with a wide range of skills. Not all of the defensemen have to be puck movers or stay-at-homes, it is possible for a complete player to manage all of the roles. Ryan Whitney does it–when healthy–and I believe that could be the future role for Petry. I’m not up on the "top 4D" defintion, but Petry strikes me as a guy who can spend a long time in your top 4D at evens, top 2D at PK and top 2D on the PP. That’s a nice range of skills.
- Devan Dubnyk (29gp, 2.75 .915). Among rookie goalies with 20 or more games played this season, Dubnyk’s Sp ranks 5th overall. Add that number to the fact he’s playing in front of a subpar group of defensemen and checkers, and I think we can begin to talk about the big man as a possible solution to the long standing goalie issue. The last homegrown goaltender who played 50 games in an Oiler uniform did it long before many of you were born. Dubnyk may end all of that, as early as next season.
This team reminds me of the 1982 Minnesota Twins. That team was beaten before they drove into the parking lot, but the rookie crop included Frank Viola, Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti and Tom Brunansky. That’s what could be happening here: the first rumblings of a championship team. These kids need to continue to develop, and they certainly need help via draft and trade, but there’s exceptional quality in impressive quantity.
We should remember that as the losses pile up.
Nation Radio goes at Noon today on Team 1260 Radio. We’ll be live at the Pint downtown and welcome you to drop by and say hello. The show itself includes EJ Mcguire from Central Scouting, David Staples from the EJ, Jonathan Willis from Oilers Nation and many more.
Please send any and all email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try to get them answered for you.